Fall in Love with the World Challenge — Day 2

Are you enjoying our challenge?  If you didn’t make it to see our first challenge, please skip back over here to see what we are doing.  Hopefully, you will enjoy following along with us as we find new ways to fall in love with the world.

Challenge #2– Examine something tiny.

You could get out a microscope, or just pick up something really small from your yard.

Take time to really look over the details of creation.

If you are following this challenge, please post a comment and a link below so that we can all check out the tiny things you have observed today!  Stay tuned tomorrow for another way to fall in love with the world.


Fall in Love With the World Challenge

Sorry, I hope you don’t feel too abandoned.  I didn’t mean to abandon you, we just had our annual Escalante hiking trip, and were away from the Internet for five days!  As I sort through five days of hiking pictures to show you the best of the best in the coming weeks, I have an exciting challenge to share with you.

In honor of Earth Day (a little late), and in the spirit of this challenge about falling in love with the world, I am showing you just one way I challenge you to enjoy nature each day of this week.  As you try out the nature challenges through this week, please take pictures and post links in your comments, so that we can all enjoy this beautiful spring time together.

Challenge #1 –Sniff a tree.

Go ahead, inhale deeply.  Enjoy the wonderful smell of a tree.

This is a Ponderosa pine.  It has a wonderful vanilla/cinnamon smell.

But Lucy likes the smell of old wood better.

Please leave me a comment and a link below, and meet me back here tomorrow for the 2nd challenge for this week of falling in love with the world.

First Fruit of Spring: Rhubarb

Suddenly, rhubarb season is upon us.  After a winter of canned, frozen, or sad imported fruit, rhubarb gives our taste buds the jolt they need to know that spring is really here.  My darling husband was able to go pick rhubarb from his mom’s large patch this morning.  Rhubarb is a huge, beautiful plant.  The leaves are inedible, and the stalks look like celery.  They are very sour, but mixed into sugary desserts they are delicious.

We like to cut up and freeze rhubarb to have during the winter as the main fruit in our Breakfast Cake, to make rhubarb muffins, and even to throw into smoothies.  We also love stewed rhubarb with strawberries as a special breakfast treat with Greek Yogurt.

To freeze rhubarb, rinse well and cut into 1/2 to 1 inch thick slices.  We put it into freezer bags in 2 cup measures, because that is how much our favorite recipes call for.  Later, it can be used without thawing in many recipes, including the Breakfast cake.

Today, though, I made a batch of stewed rhubarb with strawberries.  I will serve this for breakfast with vanilla Greek yogurt, and it will be like dessert for breakfast with a secret batch of healthiness thrown in!

Stewed Rhubarb

Makes about 4  cups

Clean and chop enough rhubarb to make 2 cups chopped

Clean and quarter one pound strawberries

Place in saucepan together with 1/4 cup water.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer until the rhubarb has completely come apart to make a sauce with chunks of strawberries floating in the sauce.  Add honey or sugar to taste (you will need 1/4 to 1/2 cup.)  Sprinkle with nutmeg.  Serve hot or cold.

I hope you can try this recipe and enjoy the first fruit of spring.  I would love to hear about your favorite rhubarb recipe in your comment.  Have a great day!

Family Hike: San Rafael Knob

On April 15, we headed out very early in the morning to the San Rafael Knob.  It is the highest point on the San Rafael Desert, and we hoped to climb to the peak before mid-day.  It had been rainy and snowy the three days prior, but we were hoping Sunday would be fine enough for a hike.  We decided to drive in the right direction, hoping the weather report would be correct.  Just after passing Soldier Summit, the highest point on our drive, we saw a small herd of elk including two bulls with fine racks.  We had to stop to try to capture the beautiful pink sky.

It was icy cold there at the summit, and though the river was not frosty, it definitely looked like a winter day.

To reach the San Rafael Knob trail, we exited I-70 at the Moore exit and headed south along the Justensen Flat road.  It is good dirt road, but shortly after it turns toward the Copper Globe mine, it gets quite rough.  I am not a good 4-wheel drive rider, and although everyone reassured me there was nothing scary about this road, I was much happier when we finally crossed the sandy wash and reached a parking space where we could cross the rocks on our feet.  There are some excellent camping spots along the rough spots of this road, especially where the road is close along the edge of the ravine.  A tent could be placed near the cliffs, and they would be wonderful to explore.

Although the wind was quite brisk, the sun was shining and we were able to leave the big coats at the car as we began our hike.  We immediately found some rocks to climb on as we followed the ATV track along the bottom of the wash.

We also enjoyed some “baby slots.”  Just another million years or so and we will be able to hike the bottom of this slot canyon.

The ATV track continues climbing gently through junipers and pinons to a clearly cairned trail leading up the side of San Rafael Swell.  Dad kept saying, “We’re heading for that Ponderosa!”  And sure enough, we ended up halfway up the side of the Knob under that Ponderosa pine.  We dropped our packs there as a lunch spot, and continued climbing the side of the Knob.

There were lots of paths on the Knob.  The trail that promised to lead us to the top, however, included a very narrow section at the top of a long drop-off.  Shandy crossed it and it seemed to continue for a while, but we decided that it was not a wise choice for the little kids, especially considering that we didn’t know if there would be more of the same, but with the certainty that we would have to cross that point again to get back down.  We decided to turn around there and head back to our packs for lunch.

When we got back down to where the trail had left the ATV track, we continued on around the Knob to where the ATV track ended.  We could see no surer way to the top of the Knob, but since we had seen posted pictures from the top, we are sure some have made it to the top.  We will have to save that attempt for another, braver day.  Round trip (not quite to the top) was a total of 8 miles.  It was a very easy hike, most of it practically road walking, and an excellent family trip.

The San Rafael Swell is a wonderful place to spend some time in the quiet of the desert.  The breadth of the view and the width of the sky is very restorative.  When you are tired of “hustle and bustle,” the desert is a place to rest your mind and heart.

I hope you enjoyed your weekend.  Did you spend some time outdoors?  Are you a desert rat, or do you prefer mountains or beaches?  Please, leave me a comment.

Early April Nature Walk

Inspired by this post, we watched videos of Horse Chestnut blooms unfolding on YouTube last week.  Unfortunately, the weather got nasty before we had a chance to find some horse chestnut trees and catkins around our area.  Today, we took advantage of the beautiful day to walk to the local cemetery and look for trees in bloom.  We were a little early for the horse chestnuts, although we saw some beautiful catkins.

We had picked plum blossoms and drawn pictures and “dissected” last week.  Lulu and Max enjoyed describing these in their nature journals when we got home, as well.

The maple trees were in few bloom.  We also saw owl pellets — spring is a good time to spot owl pellets, before the lawns have been mowed and all the garbage picked up out of the grass.  Max and Lulu discussed the time we dissected owl pellets, looking for enough parts to make an entire mouse skeleton.  Max really wanted to do that experiment again, but we convinced him that we still remembered well enough and could save a re-do for another time. (It was actually quite gross to have dead mouse hair floating around the yard!)

We heard first, then spotted, a Northern Flicker.  It wasn’t frightened of us at all, and we stood right beneath the tree and watched it tap and then eat insects.  We wanted to wait until it flew away so that the kids could see the flickering motion that gives the bird its name, but the tree must have been a good one.  The bird would not fly, even when Max and Lulu threw pine cones in the air near it.

Do you collect “mementos” of the spring?  What do you do to help your kids notice the little things around them?  Please leave me a comment!

Preparing to Hike with Your Family — Spring

As spring in Utah alternates between hot and snow, hiking season has definitely arrived. Unfortunately for us, the snow is usually on the weekends, and the hot is mid-week. Shandy has been tied down by his work lately, so we can’t just throw everything over and go hiking mid-week right now. Even so, I wanted to share some pointers with you
about how to take best advantage of spring hiking season.

  • The most important step is to prepare your mind.  Don’t be depressed because of the weather, but get your mind set to take advantage of the great weather the moment it happens.
  • Have some plans in mind (and maps printed out.)  Spring weather is unpredictable, but you can be ready to go when good weather arrives.
  • Check out books at the library such as “Best Day Hikes” in your area, or search the internet for hikes that are within driving distance.  Print out maps and have those prepared so that if the weather is good, you can take advantage of it.
  • Keep hiking snacks ready.  We allow junk food while we are hiking, although rarely at other times.  I buy water bottles, Pringles (they hold up well inside a backpack), pretzels, Gatorade and candy and stash it for the unexpected hiking trip.  If I have a (hidden) cupboard stock, I don’t have to do a last minute grocery trip.
  • Review your equipment.  Spring is a great time to review your equipment and make sure everything is in good repair.  Backpacks do wear out, although they can often be repaired with a little needle and thread work.  Make sure everyone has good hiking clothing – jeans with seams that do not rub, sweatshirts that pack into a daypack well.
  • Pre-pack your packs.  First-aid equipment, batteries, headlamps, rain ponchos, extra socks, hats and gloves can “live” in your backpack. I often pre-pack water bottles and granola bars so that we have a start on snacks.  If your backpack is ready to go, you can throw in snacks, maps and camera and be ready to go.
  • Make a master packing list for car camping, day hiking, and backpacking trips.  I maintain three separate lists because I pack different gear depending on where I am going.  We have more padding to sleep on when we are car camping (obviously we don’t carry an air mattress or pillows when we backpack!)  I have been reviewing those lists and making sure that they are updated.  As the kids grow, they can carry more of their own comforts, but I still don’t allow them to become loaded down with too much stuff.
  • Review backpacking gear lists, and make sure you are fully equipped.  Reviewing these lists and crosschecking with your own list can help you evaluate oversights.  Remember, just because it is on someone’s list doesn’t mean it has to be on your list.  Backpacker magazine has good gear lists, and it is good to review what you have and what you really need.
  • Freeze some water bottles for the cooler.  No matter how long your hike, it is nice to come back to some cold drinks.  I freeze water in used 2-liter soda bottles to be a source of constant cool in our cooler.  These are nice because they won’t leave your cheese floating in melted ice, and still keep everything very cold.

These are the things I am doing in the snow today so that as soon as the sunshine breaks – Saturday, Sunday, Monday? – I can hit the trail with my family.  Hope you’re enjoying your spring as well.

Beautiful Sunday

Look what we spotted on the way home from our hiking trip last week.  Something very rare in desert Utah.  Look closely, and then I’ll tell you what they are.

Trees full of nesting blue herons!  What a wonderful sight.  Have a great Sunday!



Spring Cookout

All our real food etiquette went out the window today.  Lunch was from Pizza Hut and we had our first cookout of the spring with hot dogs and marshmallows.  HOW SHAMEFUL!  After an afternoon spent gardening, we drove up the canyon a little way to a park and had a fire and played in the underbrush.  All the spur of the moment reasons I love having my kids at home with me.  One more vote for home school.

Tree wrestling — a new game called “push-off” was invented — and no one was seriously damaged.  Lulu’s feelings were trampled upon, but she lived to tell about it.  Brett blamed marshmallows for Max’s hyperactivity.  I think I know where to place the blame.

A good time was had by all. (Even though we’re really, really sorry about the junk food.  Please don’t tell anyone.)  Hope you’re enjoying spring time, too!

Exploring Capitol Reef National Park

Don’t drive through Capitol Reef without stopping to see the fruit orchards and one room school house at Fruita.  Fruita was a tiny town in the middle of Capitol Reef — what a location to live in!  The kids and I really enjoyed peeking through the windows of the school house, and imaging Laura, Mary and Almanzo going to just such a school.

Another must stop at Capitol Reef is the Goosenecks overlook.  Sulfur Creek is one of the most wonderful hikes in Capitol Reef, and I hope to do this hike again this summer and show you pictures of it.  In the meantime, looking off the overlook down into this deep canyon gives a foretaste of what is in store.

We stopped at the overlook to take some pictures.

I guess you can tell how much Max hates hiking.

Lots more to see in Capitol Reef — can’t wait til I get to go there again.  Hope you’re having a great week!

Hiking Lower Spring Canyon, Capitol Reef National Park

This weekend was beautiful spring weather, a little breezy and 70 degrees.  A little hot for a hiking — but just perfect.  We weren’t certain where we would be hiking, because we wanted to do Spring Canyon, but that required fording the Fremont River.  If the river was too high, we planned to hike Upper Muley Twist, another must do Capitol Reef hike we’ve been saving for the right day.  Mom and Dad got down to Capitol Reef on Saturday afternoon and checked the ford.  Dad actually was able to ford it, so we planned to get up early on Sunday started hiking to Spring Canyon from the Chimney Rock trailhead.

The first time we had hiked this trail, we only made it part way to the confluence with Spring Canyon.  We were “checking it out” on our way to another hike.  The trail at Chimney Rock starts up a steep, blue clay hill that really kicked our butts when we were here before.  This time we just powered right up it.  It is short, and it is nearly the only uphill on this trail.  Right after you get to the top of this hill, start looking for petrified wood.  It is everywhere, some of it big stumps, some bark, and some pieces that look like splinters from someone splitting firewood.

This is a big stump we saw further down the canyon that someone very strong had lifted up on top of a boulder.

We came to an open looking confluence that we assumed was the confluence with Spring Canyon, and followed it a little way up canyon before realizing it was just a box.  The  confluence with Spring Canyon is signed, and it seems farther than 3 miles from the trailhead (posted), but my GPS was getting lots of crazy points, so I don’t have good mileage on this trip.

The light was beautiful for taking shots of the canyon and the desert varnish (the black markings on the canyon walls) was  shining like wet paint.  As usual, the kids found plenty of rock climbing and fun on the trail.

We did walk up the Spring Canyon Confluence when we found it, and although the spring was not marked on the map, we did find where the water began about a half mile up from the confluence.  If this water is perennial, it would make Spring Canyon a very nice overnight backpack.  Most of the hike is a straight wash walk, with a little sand slogging and bouldering thrown in for spice.  There is only one tricky spot of the trail, a climb around a narrow slot canyon.

The path above the slot canyon was not too scary, but one part of it was a walk around a sliding dirt hill above a drop.  Dad and Shandy were ahead, and assured us it was fine, but it appeared that we were walking on a thin line carved into the dirt.  After deciding we would probably survive a fall (but with lots and lots of road rash and broken legs), Lulu and I took our walk around the cliff.

This was definitely the most exciting part of the hike.  After a stop for lunch, we finished our hike down the canyon.  We spotted an arch high on the wall, and there was one very beautiful alcove.

In the excitement of the river crossing, we forgot to take pictures!  Sorry.  It was about thigh deep and running quite fast, but the bottom was not slippery.  We crossed with arms linked, and were successful!  Thank goodness — no way we were hiking back 9 miles.  That is also the reason you should never start a hike with a possibly uncrossable river on it — when you get there, you’ll try to cross whether or not it is safe.

Hope you enjoy the pictures!  Go to Capitol Reef soon.  You won’t be sorry and March and April are perfect times to go.  Tomorrow — some more things to see on your trip.